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Several kids in school uniforms. | Source: Shutterstock
Several kids in school uniforms. | Source: Shutterstock

Orphan Siblings Run from Shelter to Save Their Down Syndrome Brother – Story of the Day

Roshanak Hannani
Sep 20, 2023
05:40 A.M.

Officer Markson saw four children walking around when they should've been at school, but they ran off as soon as they saw him. At the station, he discovered their story and promised to help them.

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Allan's morning shifts were always calm. At first, it was a mess with the morning rush as people drove their kids to school and then to work. The honk of cars and traffic saturated the streets of his hometown for a long time.

But at some point, everything settled. There were fewer vehicles were on the streets, and only some people walked around to get a coffee at the local shop or just to stroll. Allan always took some time to do that as well.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Waiting in his squad car was sometimes dull, especially since his partner had retired from the force. They had yet to assign him a new one, so he often walked, got himself a coffee and donut – yes, he always embraced the cliché – and people-watched.

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Nothing ever happened. That's the beauty of a small town in America. It was almost always peaceful. The department sometimes had to deal with drugs or robberies, which usually happened at night, but Allan's shift was mainly uneventful.

He had to be vigilant because innocent things could still be slightly off. That's what happened one morning. After throwing away his empty to-go coffee cup and napkin, he saw four kids hanging around near the park.

One of them was in a wheelchair, and he frowned. Shouldn't they be in school? Allan wondered, keeping his eyes on them. The kids kept walking, not noticing him yet. They entered an alleyway next to the bakery and knocked on the back door.

An employee he had seen in the shop quickly passed them two brown paper bags and went back inside. The kids smiled happily at each other and walked off, heading for the other exit of the alley. Allan hesitated, wondering if he should get his car, follow them, or keep walking.

Ultimately, he decided to walk and saw them sitting on the bench, enjoying pastries and bread. The cop immediately realized they must eat day-old goods that the bakery couldn't sell. But that only raised more alarms in his head.

Finally, he decided to talk to them. "Hey, kids!" he called loudly, waving and grinning.

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The eldest of the kids, a girl who couldn't be older than 14, turned to him first. Her eyes bulged after noticing Allan's uniform. "RUN!" she told the others, and they bolted. Allan started running, too.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

One of the younger kids pushed the one in the wheelchair for dear life, but the eldest and another separated from them, and Allan had no idea who to follow. His confusion and hesitation cost him dearly because, soon enough, the kids were gone.

***

"CPS has been looking for these kids for months, Officer Markson," a colleague, Officer Hernandez, told him. "However, we didn't have any clues of their whereabouts for a while until you reported them. I don't know why. After that story about the bakery, I would think the community would've said that four siblings, one with Down Syndrome, are alone in the world."

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Allan felt terrible. He could've helped but he scared them instead. "What else do you know?"

"Their names are Sarah, George, Lila, and Kurt. Their parents died early this year," the other cop continued. "They bounced around a few shelters. The kid with Down Syndrome was sent to a foster home. But suddenly, they took off. All four disappeared from their shelters and homes. They probably think they're saving their brother. They have been in hiding for months. They're sneaky."

"Do you know why they ran from their homes?"

"No idea. My best guess would be that they don't like being separated," Officer Hernandez shrugged. "But I mean that kid with the disability needs real care from adults. His siblings can't help him."

"That's terrible," Allan said sadly.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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"Yes," his friend agreed. "Well, we can search for them now that you spotted them. The cops on the case thought they had left town."

"Yeah, let's find and get them help," he smiled slightly, hopeful about helping those poor kids.

***

For a few days, Allan and several of his colleagues waited by the park, near the bakery, near the school, and everywhere else they could think of. But the kids didn't appear. All he wanted to do was help them, but it looked like they didn't want it.

Or… they didn't trust adults enough to let them help out. Allan hated to think about children being afraid of cops or any adult, but this was a brutal world. Not everyone had your best interest, and the most vulnerable were susceptible to the worst kind of people.

Therefore, he was glad that the kids had terrific survival instincts. "You were right. They're not just sneaky. They're careful," he commented to Officer Hernandez at the end of his shift. They had once again been unsuccessful in their quest to find them.

His buddy frowned and hummed with a faraway look in his eye. "Maybe we're approaching things wrong," his colleague suggested, putting his hands on his hips.

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"What do you mean?" Allan asked, frowning.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"We've already talked about this, but obviously, these children are sneaky because they don't trust anyone to help them, meaning others have failed them before. Perhaps even cops and social workers. Being separated must be tough, but not all foster homes are prepared for a child with Down Syndrome," his colleague continued.

"So, they must think they're saving their brother by running from their foster homes and shelters," Allan commented.

"Exactly. So, I think we need to get out of our uniforms and try to approach them, not as the law but just as regular people," Officer Hernandez said, shrugging.

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"I don't think they'll be convinced, even if we're out of uniform," he disagreed, shaking his head. "They're not stupid."

"No, of course not," Officer Hernandez stated. "We just need to get close to them. If one of us can approach just one of them, we may be able to work with them to find another solution."

"Yeah," Allan nodded. "But CPS has their protocols."

Officer Hernandez sighed. "That's another issue."

"These kids were forced into an arrangement they hated, separated from their remaining family, and now, they prefer to be on the streets," Allan said thoughtfully. "But perhaps, if we could arrange for all of them to be together, it would change their minds."

"That's not something we can promise," his colleague sighed again.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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"I know, but we can try," Allan insisted, more to himself than to Officer Hernandez. "I'll try to approach one of them – perhaps the eldest, the tall girl – and maybe they'll listen if I promise not to try to catch and separate them."

"That sounds like a solid plan," his colleague said. "Should we try to set up a team?"

"No," Allan shook his head. "Let me do it. I reported them. It's better if not too many cops are on their tail. The last thing we want is for them to skip town and get into more trouble."

"Good," his colleague agreed, and they parted ways.

***

That evening, Allan went home after his shift, changed into regular clothes, and went out again. He walked around the same area where he had spotted the kids, trying not to be too conspicuous about it.

However, the looks some people gave him told the cop that he wasn't entirely successful in that endeavor. He was looking for someone. So, he went into the bakery, bought himself some coffee again and a pastry, and sat on the chairs outside to see if he could spot the kids.

Allan knew that other colleagues had talked to the bakery employee who had given the children the day-old treats, but he didn't want to tell them much.

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For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"The man said, 'I just didn't want to throw food out, so I always give it away,'" Officer Smith told Allan when he inquired after his conversation with Officer Hernandez. "He also said he didn't know the children. When I asked how often they came, he mumbled something about every other day. But he said he had to return to work."

"Did you find him suspicious?" Allan wondered. "Like he was working with the kids to hide their whereabouts or something?"

"Not really," Officer Smith said, shaking her head. "I think he was uncomfortable just talking to cops in general. I believe he was telling the truth."

As Allan ate his pastry, he thought about Officer Smith's words and how people in local restaurants were now going against many company policies to give old food away. It was a dangerous choice because someone could sue if that food got them sick.

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However, throwing away delicious treats just because they may be a little older always seemed criminal. So, most people on the force looked the other way. On the other hand, these kids hadn't approached the bakery in many days.

Therefore, they were either going extremely hungry, or they had found another shop to give leftovers. Allan sighed, thinking their search would have to expand to other places before the kids did something drastic like leaving their town.

This isn't going to be easy, he thought wryly, sipping the last of his night coffee and rising from the table. Allan was about to head home when the familiar silhouette of the eldest girl passed through his peripheral vision. He turned with wild eyes and saw her going to the same alleyway.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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He realized right then that the eldest children must have decided to separate, and maybe that's why they hadn't been able to find them. Of course, the kid in the wheelchair would be too obvious, but they must hide him somewhere while the others try to find food.

Allan ran to the alley entryway but hid behind the building. The girl knocked on the side door, and the same employee from the other day came out to quickly pass her some bags. So, he knew more than he was letting on, or the kids had asked him not to say anything, the cop thought.

He couldn't be too angry at the man, considering that those children needed to eat and he was doing them a genuine service. But he had to know that it was better for them to be with adults unless he had a similar experience with the foster system.

Allan shook his head, as he couldn't dwell on the bakery employee's past now that the girl was in his sight. The man talked to the girl for a few seconds, and she nodded, almost like she had been warned about something. Then, he closed the door, and the girl started walking in the opposite direction.

For a moment, he debated following her to locate all the kids or talking to her directly. He acted quickly because it would've been creepy for a grown man not wearing his police uniform to follow a girl.

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"Hey, wait!" Allan called out, and the girl turned, her eyes widening in shock. "Please! Don't run! Please! All I want is to help you!"

The girl was poised to take off, but her face twisted into a look of pure resentment. "You can't help me! You can't help us! All you want is to separate us!" she called out and started to run, but Allan had gotten too close and grabbed her arm gently but firmly.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"Let me go!" she said, pulling harshly but not strong enough.

"Please, calm down," Allan begged. "I'm the cop that saw you earlier. All I want is for you and your siblings to be in good homes. Your brother has Down Syndrome. He can't live on the streets, and you can't care for him properly like that."

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"How do you know all that?" the girl spat, still trying to dislodge his hand.

"I'm a cop. You can call me Officer Markson. The department has been trying to locate all four of you for months, Sarah," Allan finally used the name Officer Hernandez had given him.

"How do you know my name?"

"We know all your names. It's our job, but you need to listen."

"Fine," Sarah said resentfully and pulled hard, and Allan released her, keeping his hands in the air in a peace gesture.

"Don't run, or I'll catch you, and I don't want to force you into anything," he assured her.

"What do you want then?"

"I already said I want to help you and your siblings," Allan replied calmly. "This can't go on. Sarah, the department's efforts will double if you guys keep running off. This is not a game. Living on the streets is not good for any of you. You're so skinny now, and your brother needs assistance. You also all need to go to school. You can have a new family. I know it's not the same, and nothing will bring back your parents–"

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For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"Stop! You don't know anything about us, even if you do know our names and Kurt's condition and that our parents are gone," Sarah shook her head, angry moisture gathering in her eyes. "We are taking care of each other much better since we escaped."

Allan sighed. "OK, tell me why you ran off first," he asked, taking a different approach.

"You people don't want to help us," Sarah started, her voice angry and thick. "You dump us on some couples who all want money from the government and think that's somehow much better or us. No! What's better is for us to be together!"

"That can be arranged with CPS," Allan claimed. "I can help with that. We can work something out."

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"Really?! You can guarantee that because there are four of us, including a disabled kid? No foster placement wants that except one," Sarah shook her head desperately. "The social worker said they always send kids with disabilities to this 'great couple,' but they hurt him! They bully him! They're evil! The last time we ran from the shelter was because they were going to place them back, even after we told them what they did to him."

Allan frowned, concerned about this bullying couple, but it wasn't enough to let them roam around.

Sarah continued before he could say much. "We escaped to save him. I wasn't in such a bad situation, but my siblings…" she said, running her hands through her hair. "They weren't doing so good. They felt lonely, and when we heard about Kurt...Our parents were doing so great with him. He was in a special therapy, and we were all happy. Together."

Her voice broke on the last word, and Allan leaned to see the kid straight in the eyes. "Sarah, I can't bring your parents back. I'm so sorry for what you have lost and what you feel you have to take on now," he continued, realizing that she had the weight of the world on her shoulders as the eldest sibling. "But this is too much for you."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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"I don't know what else to do," Sarah wailed, openly crying. "I have to take care of them. That's what my parents would've wanted."

"No, Sarah," Allan continued, feeling his heart breaking. "Your parents would've wanted you to be watched and cared for by good people. I can't change what's happened in the past, but I can promise not to rest until I get the four of you into the right home."

The system was flawed, although he certainly couldn't blame the social workers who worked for peanuts and were probably stretched too thin. There were so many kids with many needs but few people willing to care for them. It was terrible, but it was a reality. He would investigate the bully couple she had talked about at some point, but for now, he only needed Sarah to listen.

"I don't know," Sarah nodded, wiping her face. "How can I trust you when others have failed us?"

Allan felt that question like a stabbing knife in his chest. "That's a very good question, which tells me that you're smart and should be in school," he began, letting his concern show in his words. "I ask you, Sarah, to trust me just this once. I will fight for you and your siblings. You should all get what you deserve: a proper home."

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Sarah stared into his face, a war raging in her eyes. She wanted desperately to get help. Her skinny figure told him how desperate for food they all must be. She also had dirty knees, and her clothes were too thin for the coming winter.

Allan looked back at the girl, hoping his gaze showed his conviction. He wanted to help them so badly, even though he had no idea why this case touched him so much. He couldn't empathize with them at all. Both his parents were alive and well.

His entire family was big and loud and gathered for all holidays, even causing drama but ultimately loving each other. Perhaps that was the reason. These kids didn't have what Allan had, and it was unfair.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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The world had already been unfair to them, and someone had to step up and do the right thing. Finally, Sarah nodded glumly, "Alright."

"Good," Allan breathed in relief. "Can you tell me where the others are? Let's take the squad car."

***

Allan picked up the kids from an abandoned house a few blocks away. Fortunately, the druggies or low-lives in town hadn't discovered the place. Sarah's siblings gave her a look of betrayal, but she talked them down.

"It's the only way," she expressed with deep regret and shame, almost as if she was responsible for this.

But her brother, George, nodded, looking at Kurt. That's when Allan noticed that the kid was red-faced. When he asked, they told him he had been running a fever. He remembered reading somewhere that people with Down Syndrome were more prone to infections from weaker immune systems,

So, he packed all the kids up in his car and took them to the clinic. The kids were all checked, and the doctors were concerned with their malnutrition, which could've become a massive problem if they stayed on the streets much longer.

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Allan told Sarah all of this so she would keep trusting him. He was openly honest with her and kept close when their social worker, Mrs. Ramirez, appeared.

"Finally! You four have given us so much trouble!" she exclaimed, walking briskly with her folders. "Time to go back to your homes!"

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

George and Lila ran into Sarah's arms and stood fearfully in front of their brother's hospital bed. She looked at Allan pleadingly, and he nodded.

"Wait a minute," he raised his hand, shaking his head. "Let's talk a little bit first, Mrs. Ramirez."

The woman bristled, but she complied when he showed her his badge. "OK, what is it?" she asked, taking on an authoritative tone.

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"Mrs. Ramirez," Allan breathed, wetting his lips. "I've been told the people who had Kurt were not good with him."

"Oh, nonsense," she scoffed, shaking her head. "The Johnsons are fantastic people. They always volunteer for the disabled kids, who are so hard to place."

"Mrs. Ramirez," he snapped. "He is not going back there. The last thing we want is for these kids to escape again, which they will do if you put Kurt in that home again. I will launch an investigation into that couple and have their foster license or whatever it is removed. Because four kids don't choose cold streets and leftovers if something isn't terribly wrong."

Mrs. Ramirez's face turned red, but Allan continued.

"And if I find any evidence that you or anyone knew about bullying claims and did nothing," Allan continued menacingly. "I will find a way to press charges. Do you understand?"

The woman looked like she had eaten something rotten, but she nodded.

"Good," Allan said carefully. "Is there any way they can be placed together?"

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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Her face returned to a normal color, and she sighed. "I'll have to make some calls. Obviously, they won't be placed in a foster home any time soon. We'll take them to the group home," she answered. "If that's OK with you. Then, we'll have to see where to place them."

"Excellent. I'll be following up on this case from now on, and Officer Hernandez, too, if I'm unavailable," he continued, raising his eyebrows.

"I understand," Mrs. Ramirez agreed.

"Good," he nodded, rubbing his hands. "I've also requested the kids stay here until Kurt gets discharged. I'll be with them, too. Mrs. Ramirez, they don't trust adults now. I want to rebuild that trust. Will you help me?"

"Yes," she said, her voice showing more conviction, and he finally believed her.

The doctors gave Kurt some antibiotics, and the kids devoured the hospital food like it was a tasty treat, making Allan sadder. They must've been really hungry.

Kurt was discharged after two days, and Mrs. Ramirez took them to a group home, but Allan and Officer Hernandez decided to visit every day after their shifts to check they were all good together and not planning to run again.

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Finally, one newly licensed foster couple agreed to take them in. Their names were Jason and Alina. Allan talked to them once Mrs. Ramirez suggested them.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

"My brother has Down Syndrome," Alina said, nodding. "I helped my parents as much I could while growing up. I visit them often still, so I think I can do it."

Her husband agreed. "Yeah. We've wanted a family for a long time and discussed what we would do in case of any disabilities. We've already searched for some resources, special classes, and transportation since he has a wheelchair, but we can do more."

"And you understand these kids are terrified of foster placements and new people?" Allan asked them, worried.

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"Yes," Alina answered. "We'll work with them."

"I'll be checking up on them, too," Allan continued. "I promised not to abandon them during this process, and I intend to keep that vow."

"Good!" the couple said in unison.

It took a while, but Allan convinced Sarah to try things out and gave her his phone number. "Call me if you have any concerns," he said. "But give them a chance. They look like great people."

Allan kept his promise and checked on the kids once a week at their home, and they seemed to be thriving. Sarah nodded when he asked if she still wanted to stay with them. So, he reduced his visits.

She only called him several months later, but she had no worries. "They were filing paperwork to adopt us," she said carefully.

"That's a good thing, Sarah," Allan noted.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

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"Yeah," she said. "If they adopt us, the checks from the government stop. So, they must want us. Right?"

"What does your heart tell you?" Allan asked, knowing the answer. He had already seen that in his past visits to their home.

"Thank you, Officer Markson," Sarah sobbed gently into the phone. "You saved us."

Allan's throat got thick. "You're welcome."

She hung up and never called again. But she and her siblings would wave and smile whenever he passed them while patrolling town.

Tell us what you think about this story, and share it with your friends. It might inspire them and brighten their day.

If you enjoyed this story, you might like this one about two poor siblings who cared for orphans in shelters and then discovered money in their bank account.

This piece is inspired by stories from the everyday lives of our readers and written by a professional writer. Any resemblance to actual names or locations is purely coincidental. All images are for illustration purposes only. Share your story with us; maybe it will change someone's life. If you would like to share your story, please send it to info@amomama.com.

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